List of friendly fire incidents

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There have been many thousands of friendly fire incidents in recorded military history, accounting for an estimated 2% to 20% of all casualties in battle.[1] The examples listed below illustrate their range and diversity, but this does not reflect increasing frequency. The rate of friendly fire, once allowance has been made for the numbers of troops committed to battle, has remained remarkably stable, and unimproved, over the past 200 years.[2]

Wars of the Roses[edit]

  • 1471 – During the Battle of Barnet a Lancastrian force under the Earl of Oxford was fired on by the Lancastrian centre while returning from a pursuit; their banner, Oxford's “star with rays” had been mistaken for the Yorkist “sun in splendour”. This gave rise to cries of treachery, (always a possibility in that chaotic period), Lancastrian morale collapsed, and the battle was lost.

English Civil War[edit]

Nine Years' War[edit]

  • 1690 – Two French regiments accidentally attacked each other during the Battle of Fleurus, which led to the practice of attaching a white scarf to the flags of the regiments.[4]

French and Indian War[edit]

  • July 9, 1755 – Two main phases of friendly fire occurred during the Battle of the Monongahela, which halted the Braddock Expedition after French regulars, French militia and Indians joined battle with them before Fort Duquesne. In the obscuring woodland conditions and confusion caused by the French musket fire and the Native Americans' war cries, several British platoons fired at each other. Later in the battle many British American soldiers fled from more exposed ground and into woods, where redcoats fired on them mistaking them for advancing French infantry.[5]

American Revolutionary War[edit]

  • In the Battle of Germantown in 1777, a combination of late arrival, poor navigation and overpursuit resulted in Major General Adam Stephen's men colliding with General Anthony Wayne's troops. The two Continental Army brigades opened fire on each other, became badly disorganized, and fled.
  • In the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781, after several volleys of musket and cannon fire broke out, smoke began to obscure soldiers' view of the battlefield. In a pitched battle, smoke not only limited visibility but irritated soldiers' eyes and could make breathing difficult. In the confusion, British Lieutenant John Macleod, in command of two British three-pounders, was directed by British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis to fire on the Americans who were in close combat with the British. Many British soldiers died as a result of friendly artillery bombardment.

Napoleonic Wars[edit]

  • 1796 – Battle of Fombio: In a night of confused fighting when Austrian units had stumbled into his army's position, French general Amadee Laharpe was shot dead by his own men while returning from reconnaissance.
  • 1801 – Battle of Algeciras Bay: Spanish ships Real Carlos and San Hermenegildo mistakenly engaged each other in the dark after the HMS Superb sailed between them and fired at both. 1,700 were killed when the two ships exploded.[citation needed]
  • 1806 – On 30 November, at 10pm, HMS Dart and Wolverine came upon a ship that they suspected was a French privateer and that kept up a running fight until morning, only surrendering after her captain and several of her crew had been wounded, of whom six later died. The vessel turned out to be the British merchant ship Mary.[6]
  • 1809 – Battle of Wagram: French troops mistakenly fired on their allies from the Kingdom of Saxony. The grey uniforms of the Saxons were misidentified as white, the colour of uniform worn by their Austrian enemy.
  • 1815 – :*Battle of Quatre Bras: Soldiers of the Dutch 3rd Light Cavalry Brigade disengaging and retiring from a skirmish against the French were fired on by Scottish highlanders who mistook their uniforms for those of French chasseurs a cheval.[7]

Texas Revolution[edit]

  • In early hours of 1 March, a mounted party of Texian volunteers arriving at gallop to reinforce the Alamo garrison were fired at by defenders who mistook them in the dark for attacking Mexican horsemen, wounding one of them, before the sentries were called to open the gates for them.[8]
  • At the Mexicans' final mass assault (overnight 5–6 March), some of the veteran troops leading it were wounded or killed when shot by untrained recruits in the ranks behind who "blindly fir[ed] their guns", and when all the defenders had been killed, Mexicans continued to shoot Mexicans in mistake during the darkness.[9]

American Civil War[edit]

Russo-Japanese War[edit]

  • Dogger Bank Incident (overnight 21/22 October 1904) – In what can be classified literally as a case of fog of war,[12] battleships of the Imperial Russian Navy's Baltic Fleet en route to reinforce in the Far East, fired on a fleet of British fishing trawlers in the North Sea, mistaking them for Imperial Japanese Navy torpedo boats after misunderstanding signals. One vessel was sunk, four were damaged, and two fishermen were killed and six wounded. In the general chaos that ensued, the cruisers Aurora and Dmitrii Donskoi were also taken for Japanese warships in the fog and bombarded by seven battleships sailing in formation, damaging both ships and killing at least one Russian sailor and severely wounding another, and fatally wounding a naval chaplain. During the pandemonium, several Russian ships signalled that torpedoes had hit them, and on board the battleship Borodino, rumours spread that the ship was being boarded by the Japanese, with some crew members donning life vests and lying prone on the deck and others drawing cutlasses to repel a boarding before a ceasefire was signalled.

World War I[edit]

  • Battle of Dinant 21–23 August 1914 – It is believed that some parties of German infantry entering the Belgian city of Dinant in a nighttime assault, fired at each other in the darkness of the night while under fire from French troops. The Germans mistakenly believed that hostile Belgian civilians had fired on them, contributing to a conviction among the German soldiers that Belgian civilians were actively fighting them.[13] This led to arrests and massacres of local civilians when the town was invaded and occupied. On the 23rd, German artillery mistakenly fired on infantry who were occupying and barricading a street; the latter units were temporarily forced to withdraw, having shot a man held as human shield accused of having been a franc-tireur in earlier fighting.[14]
  • Battle of Bolimów 31 January 1915 – The German Ninth Army launched the first large scale poison tear gas attack on the Russian Second Army in Poland, firing 18,000 gas shells. However the wind blew the gas back onto the German lines, causing a few casualties which could have been higher had the winter cold not frozen the ingredient xylyl bromide. The attack was called off, the counter-attacking Russians being successfully repelled by conventional artillery shellfire.[15]
  • 25 September 1915 – In the first gas attack launched by British forces prior to their infantry attack that opened the Battle of Loos, about 140 long tons (140 t) of chlorine gas was released, aimed at the German Sixth Army's positions on the Hohenzollern Redoubt but in places the gas was blown back by wind onto the trenches of the British First Army. Due to the inefficiency of the contemporary gas masks, many soldiers removed them as they could not see through the fogged-up talc eyepieces or could barely breathe with them on. This led to some being affected by their own gas, as it blew back across their lines or lingered in no man's land,[16] immediately causing the death of 10 and injury to about 2,000 British soldiers. It was made worse when German artillery fire blew up some of the cylinders.[17]
  • 8 May 1916 – During the Battle of Verdun, when the French outpost Fort Douaumont was occupied by German infantry, a careless cooking fire detonated grenades, flamethrower fuel and an ammunition cache. Hundreds of soldiers were killed instantly in the firestorm, including the entire 12th Grenadiers regimental staff. Worse, some of the 1,800 wounded and soot blackened survivors attempting to escape the inferno were mistaken for attacking French Colonial African infantry and were fired upon by their comrades. In all 679 German soldiers perished in this fire.[18]
  • 2 June 1916 - On the opening of the Battle of Mount Sorrel in the Ypres Salient of Belgium, the commanding officer of the 3rd Canadian Division, Major General Malcolm Mercer, and his aide Captain Lynam Gooderham, were wounded and trapped when German artillery opened fire on divisional trenches they were inspecting. They ran into rifle crossfire when attempting to evade advancing German infantry, Mercer receiving a bullet in a leg, then remained overnight unhelped until 2 am next day when Mercer was killed by an exploding shell and Gooderham was taken prisoner by the Germans. A staff officer later claimed the fatal shell was British and Mercer is upheld as the most senior Canadian officer killed in combat and by friendly fire.[19]
  • On the night of 4–5 August 1916, during the First Battle of the Somme, the 13th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry were fired on by Australian Artillery while in process of capturing and holding onto a German communication trench called Munster Alley.
  • 17 September 1916 – During the same Battle of the Somme, a company of the 1st/7th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment waiting to charge a German trench south of Thiepval, France, were strafed from behind by Stokes mortar fire, the most loss of life caused when their hand grenade store was hit, detonating its contents. The mortars had been issued their battalion only a few weeks before and inexperienced firers had set too short a range aiming at enemy lines. Despite this, company commander Captain Basil Lupton rallied the survivors and led a successful taking of the opposite trench.[20]
  • 17 March 1917 - The German submarine SM UB-40 sank a British hospital ship HMHS Lanfranc in the English Channel when it was ferrying wounded from Le Havre to Southampton. The passengers included 167 German prisoners of war, of whom 18 were killed and 15 wounded in the sinking.[21]
  • At night in foul weather on 16 September 1917, the British submarine HMS G9 mistook the destroyer HMS Pasley for a German U-boat and attacked with torpedoes. Pasley, not recognising G9 as British until too late, responded to the attack by ramming G9. Nearly cut in two, the G9 sank. Only one of the G9's crew members survived.
  • 23 January 1918 – Major William Robert Gregory, Royal Flying Corps, was shot down by mistake and killed by an Italian Corpo Aeronautico Militare pilot at Monastiero near Grossa, Padua, Italy. He inspired the poem, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, by family friend W.B. Yeats.[22]
  • 15 April 1918 – Two British soldiers from the Somerset Light Infantry were killed and C.S. Lewis was wounded after being hit by a shrapnel from a British shell that had fallen short of its target in Mont-Bernanchon, France.[23]
  • 24/25 April 1918 – During the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, soldiers of the Australian 50th Infantry Battalion, advancing in the dark under German machine fire, attacked what they believed was an enemy trench. They found out that the trench was instead occupied by British troops of the 2nd Devon and 1st Worcester Battalions who had not been informed of the Australian counterattack and "thought the Germans were attacking them from the rear".[24]
  • During the attack on the main wagon bridge over the Marne at Château-Thierry, American machine gunners described a night attack on 1 June 1918 of massed German troops, who were singing gutturally as they made a suicidal charge, some linked arm in arm. The victims were soldiers of the French 10th Colonial division from Senegal, who had been trying to get back across the river. Although reports of the incident were suppressed, it was discussed by American and French soldiers. There are no German records of any attack on the wagon bridge.[25]
  • 16 June 1918 – During German spring offensive, the British 4th Battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (4th KSLI), with reinforcing elements of North Staffordshires and Cheshires, were shelled by British artillery who were unaware the position had changed hands, within 30 minutes of successfully taking a hill, Montagne de Bligny, from the Germans and capturing prisoners. The bombardment reduced the units' effective strength to 100 men but their commander, Captain Geoffrey Bright, insisted on retaining the hill and sending out for reinforcements from British units until help arrived before nightfall. For the overall action the 4th KSLI received a unit award of the French Croix de Guerre.[26]
  • 13 July 1918 – British army officer and poet Siegfried Sassoon was wounded after being shot in the head by a fellow British soldier who had mistaken him for a German near Arras, France. As a result, he spent the remainder of the war in Britain.
  • 16 July 1918 – British flying ace Major Awdry Vaucour was killed[27] in the vicinity of Monastier di Treviso, Italy when he was accidentally shot down by an Italian pilot.
  • 28 July 1918 – Canadian flying ace and future spymaster William Stephenson, then posted with No. 73 Squadron RAF, was shot down and crashed his Sopwith Camel biplane behind enemy lines in France. During the incident, he later claimed, Stephenson was injured by fire not only from German ace pilot, Justus Grassmann,[28] but also by friendly fire from a French observer.[29] He was subsequently captured and held as a prisoner of war until he escaped in October 1918.[29]
  • 4 October 1918 - The nine companies from the US Army's 77th Infantry Division which had pushed into a salient at Charlevaux, France and became known as the "Lost Battalion" after being surrounded by the Germans, were subjected to friendly artillery fire for several hours, either due to the artillery fire being inaccurate or the coordinates, delivered by carrier pigeon, being inaccurate. The overall commander, Major Charles Whittlesey, used his last carrier pigeon, named Cher Ami, to send a second message for the artillery to cease fire.
  • 15 October 1918 – British submarine HMS J6 was sunk by British Q-ship Cymric in the Northumberland Coast. Cymric's captain, Lieutenant F. Peterson RNR, mistook the identity lettering on the conning tower of J6 for U6. Assuming U6 to indicate a German U-boat, Peterson raised the White ensign and opened fire on J6. After a number of direct hits, J6 sank. It was only after the survivors were seen in the water that Peterson and the crew of Cymric realised their mistake and recovered the survivors. Of the crew of J6, 15 were lost; a subsequent court of enquiry found that no action should be taken against Peterson.

Latvian War of Independence[edit]

Spanish Civil War[edit]

  • In 1937, the Nationalist Irish Brigade was fired upon by a Falangist unit, and the hour-long firefight resulted in 17 deaths. Neither unit had had any battle experience.

World War II[edit]

1939[edit]

  • 6 September – Just days after the start of the war, in what was dubbed the Battle of Barking Creek, three Royal Air Force Spitfires from 74 Squadron shot down two Hurricanes from the RAF's 56 Squadron, killing one of the pilots. One of the Spitfires was then shot down by British anti-aircraft artillery while returning to base.[30]
  • 10 September – The British submarine HMS Triton sank another British submarine, HMS Oxley. After making challenges which went unanswered Triton assumed it must have located a German U-boat and fired two torpedoes. Oxley was the first Royal Navy vessel to be sunk and also the first vessel to be sunk by a British vessel in the war, killing 52 with only two survivors. Both vessels were patrolling off the coast of Norway (then neutral) at the time. The incident that led to the loss of Oxley was kept in secrecy until the 1950s.[31]
  • 3 December 1939 - British submarine HMS Snapper sustained a direct hit from a British aircraft while returning to Harwich after a patrol in the North Sea, but without taking damage.[32]

1940[edit]

1941[edit]

1942[edit]

  • 31 January – The German blockade runner Spreewald was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-333, captained by U-boat ace Peter-Erich Cremer off Bordeaux.[52]
  • 20 February – British Commonwealth forces during the Burma Campaign were repeatedly bombed and strafed by RAF Blenheims during a break-out attempt by a battalion surrounded by Japanese troops in Sittaung River, Burma. More than 170 British Commonwealth lives were lost due to RAF air-strikes.[53]
  • 21 February – Pilots of the 1st American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) strafed retreating Commonwealth forces who were mistaken for an advancing Japanese column during the Burma Campaign, resulting in more than 100 casualties.[54] Around the same day, retreating British Commonwealth forces with 300 vehicles were bombed and strafed by RAF Blenheims near Mokpalin, Burma, resulting more than 110 casualties and 159 vehicles destroyed.[53]
  • 1 March before dawn - At the naval Battle of Sunda Strait, Japanese cruisers and destroyers fired Long Lance torpedoes against the Allied squadron. Many travelled too far and unexpectedly hit four Japanese auxiliary ships and sunk all (one re-floated later). Many soldiers were rescued from the sea, including the 16th Army Commander Hitoshi Imamura. Note: The English article is incorrect in many respects.
  • 14 April - RAF fighter pilot fires on the audience during a demonstration of ground attack tactics at Imber training ground, Wiltshire, after mistaking them for dummy targets in mist. 25 killed and 71 wounded.
  • 2 May – The Polish submarine ORP Jastrząb was mistakenly sunk by the British destroyer HMS St Albans and minesweeper HMS Seagull while on a convoy to Murmansk. She was attacked with depth charges and made to surface, there she was strafed with the loss of five crew and six injured, including the commander, despite lighting yellow recognition smoke candles. The ship was damaged and had to be scuttled.[55]
  • During the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign in May–September 1942, around 1,700 Japanese troops died out of a total 10,000 Japanese soldiers who fell ill with disease when their own biological weapons attack intended for Chinese civilians and soldiers rebounded on their own forces.[56][57]
  • 7 May: During the Battle of the Coral Sea, TF 44, a joint Australia–U.S. warship force, was mistakenly bombed by three U.S. Army B-17s, but fortunately sustained no damage.
  • 8 June – The Italian submarine Alagi sank the Italian destroyer Antoniotto Usodimare.[58]
  • 27 June – A group of RAF Vickers Wellington aircraft bombed the units of 4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters), British 7th Armoured Division and the British 3rd Hussars during a two-hour raid near Mersa Matruh, Egypt, killing over 359 troops and wounding 560.[59] The aftermath of RAF raids at this time were also seen by the Germans: "... The RAF had bombed their own troops, and with tracer flying in all directions, German units fired on each other. At 0500 hours next morning 28 June, I drove up to the breakout area where we had spent such a disturbed night. There we found a number of lorries filled with the mangled corpses of New Zealanders who had been killed by the British bombs ...[60]
  • Laconia incident – there were three elements of friendly fire:
* RMS Laconia, a British naval transport ship, sunk by the German submarine U-156 in the Atlantic Ocean off west Africa on 12 September, was carrying 1,793 Italian prisoners-of-war among its passengers, of whom 1,420 ultimately died.[61] Italy was then Germany's ally.
  • On 16 September, during the mass rescue of survivors by German vessels, a USAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber under orders attacked U-156 despite the pilot having earlier received a signal conveyed by a RAF officer from the U-boat that indicated Allied passengers were on board, and the submarine bearing the Red Cross flag. This caused the U-boat to cast off its passengers in order to Crash dive to avoid destruction, and to abandon rescue attempts. (U-156 was wrongly reported sunk in the action.)
* On 17 September, another U-boat involved in rescue, U-506, carrying 151 survivors, was attacked by a USAAF North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, although it failed to disable the vessel.
  • 23 October – During the 2nd Battle of El Alamein, at 2140 hours under the cover of a barrage of 1000 guns, British infantry of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division advanced towards the enemy lines. However, they advanced too fast into the area of fire from British artillery, causing over 60 casualties.[30]
  • During the 2nd Battle of El Alamein, RAF fighters bombed British troops during a four-hour raid, causing 56 casualties. The British 10th Royal Hussars were among the victims; they did not know the proper signals to call off their planes.[30]
  • 26 October — During the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, USS Porter was forced to be scuttled after an errant torpedo from a friendly Grumman TBF Avenger that had been damaged and forced to ditch nearby. Ironically, the torpedo came from the very aircraft that they were going to rescue.
  • British submarine HMS Unbeaten completed Operation Bluestone, landing an agent in Spain near Bayona, then completed her patrol in the Bay of Biscay and was returning to the UK when she went missing. It is believed that she was probably attacked and sunk in error by an RAF Wellington bomber of No. 172 Squadron, Coastal Command in the Bay of Biscay on 11 November 1942 . She was lost with all hands.[62]
  • During the night attack of 12/13 November in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the already damaged light cruiser USS Atlanta was fired on by the cruiser USS San Francisco, causing several deaths, including Rear Admiral Norman Scott.
  • 20 November – Numerous Allied pilots reported being shot at by friendly naval forces during the Torch landings in North Africa. In one such incident, a 202 Squadron Catalina flying boat was shot down with the loss of all 10 aircrew.[63]

1943[edit]

  • 21 January - German army general Karl Eibl was killed NW of Stalingrad during a chaotic retreat in the wake of Soviet Operation Little Saturn when Italian soldiers mistaking his command vehicle for a Soviet armoured car blew it up with hand grenades.[64]
  • 3 March – The German blockade runner and minelayer Doggerbank was mistaken for a British freighter and sunk by the submarine U-43 in the mid-Atlantic. (It was a British made merchant vessel that had been captured in 1941 and impressed into German service.) Of the 365 men on board (the greater part Allied prisoners-of-war), only one German crewman survived.[65]
  • 9 May – The destroyers HMS Bicester and HMS Oakley, on deployment in the Mediterranean found themselves under air attack by Spitfire aircraft; Bicester sustained extensive damage from a near miss, with the bomb exploding alongside causing major flooding. Bicester was taken in tow to Malta for temporary repairs, and required permanent repairs in the United Kingdom, which were carried out between August and September.
  • Operation Chastise: On 16–17 May, nineteen RAF Lancaster bombers of No. 617 Squadron were dispatched to attack dams in Eder, Möhne and Sorpe (Röhr) rivers near Germany, using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis. Möhne and Edersee Dams were breached, causing catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley and of villages in the Eder valley. An estimated 1,600 people were killed by the floods; 1,519 of them were Allied prisoners of war.
  • During Operation Husky, codename for the Allied invasion of Sicily, on the night of 11 July 1943, American paratroopers of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, together with the 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and Company 'C' of the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion (making a total of some 1,900 parachutists), part of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, traveling in 144 C-47 transport planes, passed over Allied lines shortly after a German air raid, and were mistakenly fired upon by American ground and naval forces. 23 planes were shot down and 37 damaged, resulting in 318 casualties, with 60 airmen and 81 paratroopers killed.[66]
  • Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, commander of the U.S. II Corps, recalled that his column was attacked by American A-36s in Sicily. The tanks lit yellow smoke flares to identify themselves to their own aircraft but the attacks continued, forcing the column to return fire which resulted in the downing of one aircraft. A parachuting pilot from the downed A-36 was brought before Bradley. 'You stupid sonofabitch!!' Bradley fumed. 'Didn't you see our yellow recognition signals!?' The pilot replied 'Oh, is that what that was?'.[67]
  • 12 August – RAF Flight Sergeant Arthur Louis Aaron was fatally wounded when the Short Stirling bomber he piloted during an air raid on Turin was reportedly (according to his posthumous Victoria Cross citation) hit by machine gun fire from an enemy night fighter, which killed his navigator and wounded other crew members, although it is believed it may have been friendly fire from another Stirling.[68] He died, after successfully landing the plane in Algeria, nine hours later.
  • 17-18 August - Local German anti-aircraft batteries were ordered to fire on 200 Luftwaffe planes observed flying over Berlin during the night which had been mistaken for British bombers that had become detached from the concurrent major air raid on Peenemunde (Operation Hydra). The responsible Luftwaffe general, Hans Jeschonnek, subsequently committed suicide after the error was revealed.[69][70]
  • During Operation Cottage after Allied forces occupied Kiska Island, U.S. and Canadian forces mistook each other as Japanese and engaged each other in a deadly firefight. As a result, 28 Americans and 4 Canadians were killed with 50 more wounded. There were no Japanese troops on the island two weeks before U.S. and Canadian forces landed. Meanwhile, thinking they were engaging Americans, Imperial Japanese Navy battleships shelled and attempted to torpedo neighbouring Little Kiska Island where Japanese soldiers were waiting to embark.[71]
  • 26 November - Medal of Honor recipient Edward O'Hare went missing during a nighttime mission. O'Hare was caught in the crossfire between a friendly Grumman TBF Avenger and a Japanese Mitsubishi G4M bomber. It was thought that O'Hare was indeed a victim of friendly fire, however several historians have argued that it was in fact the Japanese fire that shot him down.

1944[edit]

  • 28 January –
  • A train carrying 800 Allied prisoners of war was bombed when it crossed a bridge on the Ponte Paglia in Allerona, Italy, approximately 400 British, U.S. and South African prisoners being killed. In anticipation of the Allied advance, the POWs had been evacuated from PG Campo 54 at Fara-in-Sabina outside of Rome, and were being transported to Germany in unmarked cattle cars. The prisoners of war had been padlocked in the cars and were crossing the bridge when B-26s of the 320th Bombardment Group arrived to blow up the bridge. The driver stopped the train on the span, leaving the prisoners locked inside to their fate. While many escaped, approximately 400 were killed, according to local records, and witness testimony. The mass graves were later destroyed by subsequent bombardments.[72][73]
  • Early in the morning a U.S. Navy PT boat carrying U.S. Fifth Army commander General Mark Clark to the Anzio beachhead, six days after the Anzio landings, was mistakenly fired on by sister U.S. naval vessels. Several sailors were killed and wounded around him.[74]
  • 15 February - During the Battle of Monte Cassino the USAAF, under orders from the Allied commander-in-chief, General Sir Harold Alexander via General Mark Clark, air raided the hilltop Cassino abbey which was suspected to be used as a German observation post. It killed 230 Italian civilians, whose country by then was 'co-belligerent' with the Allies, who had sought shelter in the monastery but no Germans (whose troops subsequently occupied and made the evacuated ruins a stronghold).[75] Bombs that fell short of site killed some Allied troops on ground below, while 16 bombs were mistakenly dropped at the Fifth Army headquarter compound 17 miles (27 km) away, exploding yards from General Clark's trailer while he was at his desk inside.[76]
  • 25 March - a USAAF C-54 flying from the Azores to the U.K. was misidentified as a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor and shot down by a Fleet Air Arm Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter. All 6 crew were killed.[77]
  • On the morning of 27 March, two US Motor Torpedo Boats (PT-121 and PT-353) were destroyed in error by P-40 Kittyhawks of No. 78 Squadron RAAF, along with an RAAF Bristol Beaufighter of No. 30 Squadron RAAF. A second Beaufighter crew recognized the vessels as PTs and tried to stop the attack, but not before both boats exploded and sank off the coast of New Britain. Eight American sailors were killed, with 12 others wounded. Survivors were rescued by PT-346, which itself became a friendly fire victim the following month.
  • 29 April – US Navy PT-346 itself became the victim of friendly fire, when sent to the aid of PT-347, which had become stuck on a reef during a night patrol to intercept enemy barges and destroy shore installations off the coast of Rabaul in Lassul Bay, located off the northwest corner of New Britain Island in New Guinea. At 0700, PT-350 was attempting to dislodge PT-347 from the reef, when two American Marine Corsair planes mistook the PT boats for Japanese gunboats and attacked. Taking heavy fire from the planes, PT-350 shot down one of the two attacking fighters, believing them to be A6M Zeros. With three dead and four wounded and serious mechanical problems, PT-350 headed back to base. PT-347 remained stuck on the reef. When PT-350 could not be boarded because of extensive damage, PT-346 headed out to PT-347 to provide assistance. PT-346 arrived at 1230, and at 1400 was still attempting to dislodge PT-347 from the coral heads when planes appeared. The Corsair plane from the morning run brought back an entire squadron of 21 planes (four Corsairs, six Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers, four Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters, and eight Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers). Recognizing the planes as American and thinking they were the air cover he had ordered, the squadron commander ordered the men to keep working; however, the planes attacked the two boats, still mistaking them for Japanese gunboats. PT-346 did not respond defensively until it was too late, and took heavy casualties. The skipper of PT-347, Lieutenant Williams, who had experienced the earlier attack, ordered his men into the water and to stay dispersed, but two men were killed and three wounded. PT-346 and PT-347 were completely destroyed by bombs, and the men were strafed in the water for approximately one hour.
  • 5–6 June – Several RAF Avro Lancasters attempting to bomb the German artillery battery at Merville-Franceville-Plage attacked instead friendly positions, killing 186 soldiers of the British Reconnaissance Corps and devastating the town. They also mistakenly bombed Drop Zone 'V ' of the 6th Airborne Division, killing 78 and injuring 65.[78]
  • 6 June – RAF fighters bombed and strafed the HQ entourage of 3rd Parachute Brigade (British 6th Airborne Division) near Pegasus Bridge after mistaking them for a German column. At least 15 men were killed and many others were wounded.[79]
  • 8 June – a group of RAF Hawker Typhoons attacked the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th U.S. Infantry Division on the Isigny Highway, France, causing 24 casualties.[80]
  • During Operation Cobra, the American offensive push south from western Normandy, bombs from the U.S. Eighth Air Force landed on American troops on two separate occasions.
    • 24 July – Some 1,600 bombers flew in support of the opening bombardment for Cobra. Due to bad weather they were unable to see their targets. Although some were recalled, and others declined to bomb without visibility, a number did, which hit U.S. positions. Twenty-five were killed and 131 wounded in this incident.
    • The following day, on 25 July, the operation was repeated by 1,800 bombers of 8th Air Force. On this occasion, the weather was clear, but despite requests by First Army commander Gen. Omar Bradley to bomb east to west, along the front in order to avoid creepback, the air commanders made their attack north to south, over Allied lines. As more and more bombs fell short, and U.S. positions again were hit, 111 were killed and 490 wounded. Lieutenant General Lesley McNair was among the dead, the highest-ranking victim of American friendly fire.
  • 26 July – USAAF P-47s mistakenly strafed the US 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion near Perrières, France. 20 men were badly injured, but there were no fatalities.[81]
  • 27 July – The former HMS Sunfish was sunk by a British RAF Coastal Command aircraft in the Norwegian Sea during the beginning of its process of being transferred to the Soviet Navy. The Captain, Israel Fisanovich, supposedly had taken her out of her assigned area and was diving the sub when the aircraft came in sight instead of staying on the surface and firing signal flares as instructed. All crew, including the British liaison staff, were lost. Later investigation revealed that the RAF crew were at fault.[82]
  • 4 August - The crew of a de Havilland Mosquito from 410 Tactical Fighter Operational Training Squadron, RCAF, mistook a Westland Lysander for a Henschel Hs 126 during a night interception, shooting it down.[83]
  • 7 August – A RAF Hawker Typhoon strafed a squad from 'F' Company/US 120th Infantry Regiment, near Hill 314, France, killing two men.[84] Around noon on the same day, RAF Hawker Typhoon of the 2TAF was called in to assist the US 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion in stopping an attack by the 2nd SS Panzer Division between Sourdeval and Mortain but instead fired its rockets at two US 3-inch guns near L'Abbaye Blanche, killing one man and wounding several others even after the yellow smoke (which was to identify friendlies) was put out. Two hours later, an RAF Typhoon shot up the Service Company of the 120th Infantry Regiment, US 30th Division, causing several casualties, including Major James Bynum who was killed near Mortain. The officer who replaced him was strafed by another Typhoon a few minutes later and seriously wounded. Around the same time, a Hawker Typhoon attacked the Cannon Company of 120th Infantry Regiment, US 30th Division, near Mortain, killing 15 men.[84] An hour later, RAF Typhoons strafed 'B' Company/US 120th Infantry Regiment on Hill 285, killing a driver of a weapons carrier.[85]
  • Two battalions of the 77th Infantry on Guam exchanged prolonged fire on 8 August 1944, the incident possibly started with the firing of mortars for range-finding and angle calibration purposes. Small arms and then armour fire was exchanged. The mistake was realized when both units tried to call in the same artillery battalion to bombard the other.[86]
  • 8 August –
  • 8th USAAF heavy bombers bombed the headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 1st Polish Armoured Division during Operation Totalize, killing 65 and wounding 250 Allied soldiers.[87]
  • Near Mortain, France, RAF Hawker Typhoon aircraft attacked two Sherman tanks of 'C' Company, US 743rd Tank Battalion with rockets, killing five tank crewmen and wounding ten soldiers. Later that day, two Shermans from 'A' Company, US 743rd Tank Battalion were destroyed and set ablaze by RAF Typhoons near Mortain. One tank crewman was killed and 12 others wounded.[88]
  • 9 August – A RAF Hawker Typhoon strafed units of the British Columbia Regiment and the Algonquin Regiment, 4th Canadian Armoured Division, near Quesnay Wood during Operation Totalize, causing several casualties. Later that day, the same units were mistakenly fired upon by tanks and artillery of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, resulting in more casualties.
  • 12 August – RAF Hawker Typhoons fired rockets at Sherman tanks of 'A' Company, US 743rd Tank Battalion, near Mortain, France, causing damage to one tank and badly injuring two tank crewmen.[89]
  • 13 August – 12 British soldiers of 'B' Company, 4th Wiltshires, 43rd Wessex Division, were killed and 25 others wounded when they were hit by rockets and machine gun attacks by RAF Typhoons near La Villette, Calvados, France.[90]
  • 14 August – RAF heavy bombers hit Allied troops in error during Operation Tractable causing about 490 casualties including 112 dead. The bombings also destroyed 265 Allied vehicles, 30 field guns and two tanks. British anti-aircraft guns opened fire on the RAF bombers and some may have been hit.
  • 17 August – RAF fighters attacked the soldiers of the British 7th Armoured Division, resulting in 20 casualties, including the intelligence officer of 8th Hussars who was badly injured. The colonel riding along was badly shaken when their jeep crashed off the road.[91]
  • 14–18 August – The South Alberta Regiment of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division came under fire six times by RAF Spitfires, resulting in over 57 casualties. Many vehicles were also set on fire and the yellow smoke used for signalling friendlies was ignored by Spitfire pilots. An officer of the South Alberta demanded that he wanted his Crusader AA tanks to shoot at the Spitfires attacking his Headquarters.[92]
  • 27 August – A minesweeping flotilla of Royal Navy ships came under fire near Le Havre. At about noon on 27 August, HMS Britomart, Salamander, Hussar and Jason came under rocket and cannon attacks by Hawker Typhoon aircraft of No. 263 Squadron RAF and No. 266 Squadron RAF. HMS Britomart and HMS Hussar took direct hits and were sunk. HMS Salamander had her stern blown off and sustained heavy damage. HMS Jason was raked by machine gun fire, killing and wounding several of her crew. Two of the accompanying trawlers were also hit. The total loss of life was 117 sailors killed and 153 wounded. The attack had continued despite the attempts by the ships to signal that they were friendly and radio requests by the commander of the aircraft for clarification of his target. In the aftermath the surviving sailors were told to keep quiet about the attack. The subsequent court of enquiry identified the fault as lying with the Navy, which had requested the attack on what they thought were enemy vessels entering or leaving Le Havre, and three RN officers were put before a court martial. The commander of Jason and his crew were decorated for their part in rescuing their comrades. At the time reporting of the incident was suppressed with information not fully released until 1994.[93][94][95]
  • 9 September - On third day of the Battle of Arnhem, a German SS battalion's pursuit of landed Allied paratroopers was halted at the village of Wolfheze, Netherlands, when Luftwaffe planes mistakenly strafed it.[96]
  • 12 September:
  • A group of RAF Hawker Typhoon aircraft destroyed two Sherman tanks of the Governor General's Foot Guards, 4th Canadian Armoured Division in the vicinity of Maldegem, Belgium, killing three men and injuring four. One Canadian soldier from the 4th Canadian Armored Division wounded recalled this incident saying "... while so deployed the tanks were suddenly attacked, in mistake, by several Typhoon aircraft. Lt. Middleton-Hope's tank was badly hit, killing the gunner Guardsman Hughes, and the tank was set on fire. Almost immediately Sgt. Jenning's tank was similarly knocked out by Typhoon rockets. Meanwhile the Typhoons continued to press home their attack with machine guns and rockets, and, while trying to extricate the gunner, Lt. Middleton-Hope was killed after his tank was blown off. In this tragic encounter, Guardsman Scott was also killed and Baker, Barter, and Cheal were seriously wounded."[97]
  • The Japanese transport ship Rakuyō Maru, carrying 1,317 Australian and British prisoners-of-war in convoy from Singapore to Formosa (Taiwan), was sunk in the Luzon Strait by the submarine USS Sealion, whose commanders were unaware until after the sinking that allied prisoners had been on board. Ultimately 1,159 POWs died,[98] only 50 rescued by the Sealion and sister submarines in her pack lived to make landfall.
  • 18 September – The Japanese cargo ship Junyō Maru was packed with 1,377 Dutch, 64 British and Australian, and 8 American[99] prisoners of war along with 4,200 Javanese slave labourers (Romushas) bound for work on a railway line being built in Sumatra when she was attacked and sunk by British submarine HMS Tradewind, whose commander, Lt. Cdr Lynch Maydon did not know there were Allied prisoners of war on board.[100] At that time it was the world's greatest sea disaster with 5,620 dead[101] as well as the worst single friendly fire loss (surpassed by the Cap Arcona disaster next year) and highest death toll inflicted in a single action by British forces. 680 survivors were rescued, the prisoners of whom went on to their intended destination.
  • 19 September – RAF Sergeant Bernard McCormack, a gunner in a Lancaster bomber, was returning along with other RAF aircrews from a night time raid over Nazi Germany. As they returned to RAF Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, Sgt McCormack saw a plane flying in the same formation as he was. Believing that it was a German Junkers Ju 88, he attacked the plane, bringing it down over the Dutch town of Steenbergen. Two of the occupants were killed. It was found out by RAF intelligence officers that it was actually a British Mosquito flown by CO Guy Gibson, who previously took part in Operation Chastise, and his navigator Jim Warwick. Wracked with guilt, McCormack taped a confession, which he entrusted to his wife Eunice when he died in 1992.[citation needed]
  • 24 October - the Japanese transport Arisan Maru was carrying 1,784 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) from Manila to Manchuria when it was sunk by a torpedo from USS Sharkk. All but nine of the POWs are reported to have died in the incident mainly through the Japanese escort ships not rescuing them when they had all evacuated ship.[102]
  • In October, Soviet troops liberated the city of Niš from occupying German forces and advanced on Belgrade. At the same time, the U.S. Army Air Forces was bombing German-Albanian units entering from Kosovo. The U.S. planes mistook the advancing Soviet tanks as enemies (probably due to a lack of communications) and began attacking them, whereupon the Soviets then called in for air support from Niš airport and a five-minute dogfight ensued, ending after both the U.S. and Soviet commanders ordered the planes to retreat.[citation needed]
  • Canadian artillery units were rushed in to support the retreating American forces as a counterattack against the advancing German Army during the early stages of the Ardennes Offensive. When American troops were making a retreat north of the Ardennes, the Canadians mistook them for a German column. The Canadian artillery guns opened fire on them, resulting in 76 American deaths and many as 138 wounded.[103]
  • 25 December 1944 – Major George E. Preddy, commander of the USAAF 328th Fighter Squadron, was the highest-scoring U.S. ace still in combat in the European Theater at the time when he died on Christmas Day near Liege in Belgium. Preddy was chasing a German fighter over an American anti-aircraft battery and was hit by their fire aimed at his intended target.
  • Operation Wintergewitter (Winter Storm) – Italian Front:[104] American forward observer John R. Fox called down fire on his own position to stop a German advance on the town of Sommocolonia, Italy. In 1997 he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.

1945[edit]

  • 1 January - Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate): 900 German fighters and fighter-bombers launched a surprise attack on Allied airfields. Approximately 300 aircraft were lost, 237 pilots killed, missing, or captured, and 18 pilots wounded – the largest single-day loss for the Luftwaffe. Many losses were due to fire from Luftwaffe anti-aircraft batteries, whose crew members had not been informed of the attack.
  • 5 January - USS Colorado friendly gun fire hit superstructure while at Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, killing 18 wounding 51 others.
  • 16 January - During the South China Sea raid, U.S. Navy bombers targeting transport and harbor facilities in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong mistakenly bombed the nearby village of Hung Hom, killing and wounding many civilians,[105] and dropped one bomb in Stanley Internment Camp, killing 14 Allied civilian internees.[106]
  • 23 January – A group of RAF fighters strafed the assault gun platoon (105mm Sherman tanks) of US 743rd Tank Battalion, near Sart-Lez-St.Vith, Belgium, killing 6 men and wounding 15.[107]
  • 10 February - Lieutenant Louis Edward Curdes, a USAAF P-51 pilot, shot down a USAAF C-47 about to land by mistake on a Japanese held airstrip. All personnel on board the Skytrain survived.
  • 17 February - In Caen, an RAF plane fired on misidentified French military commandos; the plane crashed after running out of fuel and was eventually found partially scrapped a day after the incident.
  • 27 February – Calais suffered its last bombing raid by Royal Air Force bombers who mistook the by-now liberated town for Dunkirk, which was at that time still occupied by German forces.[108]
  • 14 April - German submarine U-235 is sunk by a German torpedo boat.[109]
  • April 24 – The Royal Air Force, carrying out an air raid on Rangoon in Burma, bombed a jail in the belief that it was a command center for the Japanese Army. Unfortunately, the jail was actually not a Japanese command center but was the incarceration site of Allied prisoners of war. Over 30 Allied POWs were killed.[110]
  • The March (1945) – On 19 April, at a village called Gresse, a flight of RAF Typhoons strafed a column of Allied POWs during the death march after mistaking them as retreating German troops, killing 30 and fatally injuring 30 more.
  • Cap Arcona incident – Although it did not involve troops in combat, this incident has been referred to as "the worst friendly-fire incident in history".[111] On 3 May, the three ships Cap Arcona, Thielbek, and the SS Deutschland in Lübeck Harbour were sunk in four separate, but synchronized attacks with bombs, rockets, and cannons by the Royal Air Force, resulting in the death of over 7,000 Jewish concentration camp survivors and Russian prisoners of war, along with POWs from several other allied nations.[111][112] The British pilots were unaware that these ships carried POWs and concentration camp survivors,[113] although British documents were released in the 1970s that state the Swedish government had informed the RAF command of the risk prior to the attack.[114][115]
  • 14 May – Several days after the German surrender, U-boat ace Wolfgang Luth was shot and killed by a sentry while walking after dark at the German naval base at Flensburg-Marwik.
  • 3 July 1945 - While covering the invasion of Balikpapan in Borneo, Australian war correspondents John Elliot and William Smith, went ahead of the advancing Australian troops; a Bren gunner in the latter, believing them to be Japanese troops, shot and killed them both.[116]
  • 6 and 9 August – 20 Allied POWs died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Afghan tribal revolts of 1944–1947[edit]

  • It was rumoured that on one occasion during the revolts, Afghan aircraft accidentally bombed and machine gunned government troops or allied tribal levies, causing 40 casualties.[117]

Palestine Emergency (1945–48)[edit]

  • In 1946, Lieutenant (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Colin Campbell Mitchell of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was deployed with his battalion in a crackdown on Jewish militants. On one personal reconnaissance mission he was shot and wounded by one of his own Bren gunners when he was mistaken for a guerilla, but subsequently recovered.[118]
  • During the Acre Prison break, a 1947 raid on Acre Prison by the Irgun to free imprisoned Irgun and Lehi members, Lehi fighter and escaped prisoner Shimshon Vilner was accidentally killed by Bren gun fire from the Irgun commander of the operation, Dov Cohen, during a firefight with British troops.[119]

1948 Arab–Israeli War[edit]

Korean War[edit]

  • 3 July 1950 – Eight F-51 Mustangs of No. 77 Squadron RAAF strafed and destroyed a train carrying thousands of American and South Korean soldiers who were mistaken for a North Korean convoy in the main highway between Suwon and P'yongtaek, resulting more than 700 casualties. Before the attack, the Australian pilots had been assured by the United States 5th Air Force Tactical Control Centre that the area under attack was in North Korean hands. However, 20 minutes prior to an attack, the 5th Air Force Tactical Control Centre received intelligence that the area might be under American hands and told the Australian pilots to hold their fire. One Australian pilot ignored the order, believing the train was indeed carrying North Korean forces. The pilot then strafed the train and his squadron followed the lead as well.[120][121]
  • 23 September 1950 – Hill 282 was attacked by 1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, part of the British 27th Infantry Brigade in the United Nations Command. Having captured it and facing strong Korean People's Army counter-attacks, the Argylls, devoid of artillery support, called in a UN air-strike. A group of United States Air Force F-51 Mustangs of the 18th Fighter Bomber Wing circled the hill. The Argylls had laid down white air-recognition panels, but the North Koreans imitated similar panels on their own positions in white as well. It was later found out that several British air controllers mistakenly did not inform the pilots of proper air-recognition panels and the Argylls Captain was unable to contact the F-51s due to his defective radio. As a result, the planes mistakenly napalm-bombed and strafed the Argylls' hill-top positions. Despite a desperate counter-attack by the Argylls to regain the hill, for which Major Kenneth Muir was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, the Argylls, much reduced in numbers, were forced to relinquish the position. Over 60 of the Argylls' casualties were caused by friendly air-strike.[122]
  • During the Battle of Wawon, fleeing soldiers of the Republic of Korea Army II Corps were mistaken by the Turkish Brigade as Chinese which led to an exchange of fire. As a result, 20 South Korean soldiers were killed and four others wounded with 14 Turkish deaths and six wounded.[123]
  • 5 December 1952 - RCAF Squadron Leader Andy MacKenzie (a World War II ace) was shot down by his own squadron mate during a dogfight. Captured by Chinese forces, he was kept prisoner for two years, being released in December 1954.[124]

Cyprus Emergency[edit]

  • 12 December 1955: On the Troodos mountains near the village of Spilia during the Battle of Spilia, British units from the north and ones from the south, unable to see in the fog and in the belief that they were surrounded by EOKA fighters, engaged each other in an eight-hour firefight involving airstrikes, artillery bombardments, and heavy weapons. This firefight caused 250 casualties, including 127 deaths, 102 injuries, and 21 missing, making it the deadliest friendly fire incident of the war.[125][126]
  • On 15 October 1958, 23 British soldiers of 1st Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles, were killed and 35 others injured while walking near the Kyrenia Mountains when two British machine gunners mistook them for EOKA fighters and opened fire on them for at least 15 minutes. Some British soldiers yelled multiple times at the machine gunners that they were friendlies and the group they belonged to, but the gunners kept on firing.[125]

1956 Suez Crisis[edit]

  • 3 November 1956 - During first phase of air operations in Israel's Operation Kadesh against Egypt in Sinai, Israeli Air Force Mystere fighter jets attacked a British warship, the Black Swan class sloop HMS Crane as it was patrolling the approaches to the Gulf of Aqaba. According to the IDF, Crane had been identified as an Egyptian warship. The ship was attacked with rockets, cannon fire, and napalm bombs. Its captain reported light damage, and three crewmen were lightly injured in the attack. The ship put up heavy anti-aircraft fire, and there are conflicting accounts as to whether it shot down an Israeli aircraft or not.[127][128][129][130]
  • 6 November 1956 - British commandos of No. 45 Commando Royal Marines, assaulting Port Said by helicopter, suffered friendly fire from British carrier-borne aircraft which mistakenly hit 45 Commando and HQ. One Marine was killed and 15 wounded when a carrier-based Wyvern mistakenly fired into a concentration of Marines.[131]

Vietnam War[edit]

Aft view of the bridge of USCGC Point Welcome after the friendly fire incident of 11 August 1966.[132]

It has been estimated that there may have been as many as 8,000 friendly fire incidents in the Vietnam War;[133][134][135][136] one was the inspiration for the book and film Friendly Fire.

  • 2 January 1966, in Bao Trai in the Mekong Delta during joint Australian/American forces fighting the Viet Cong, a USAF Cessna O-1 Bird Dog flying at low level accidentally flew through Australian and New Zealand artillery fire. The aircraft tail was blown off and the aircraft dived into the ground, killing the pilot instantly.[137]
  • 3 January 1966, near Bao Trai, at midnight, Sergeant Jerry Morton from 'C' Company, the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment had called in marker white phosphorus rounds ahead of the company from the supporting New Zealand gun battery on a suspected enemy position. However, due to the bad coordinates given by Morton, the rounds instead landed on the Australian forces. Morton along with another Australian soldier were killed and several others wounded.[137]
  • 3 January 1966, two rounds fired by 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery accidentally landed on C Company, 2/503rd Regiment, US 173rd Airborne Brigade, killing three paratroopers and wounding seven during Operation Marauder.[137][138] The short rounds were found to have happened due to damp powder.[139]
  • 11 August 1966, while supporting Operation Market Time, USCGC Point Welcome was attacked by USAF aircraft, resulting in the deaths of two Coast Guardsmen.[140]
  • 29 December 1966, a premature burst of a 105mm round from an LVTH-6 killed five Marines and wounded two more east of Dong Ha in Quang Tri.[141][142]
  • 6 February 1967, twelve rounds from New Zealand artillery accidentally landed on the Australian 'D' Company 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, killing four and thirteen injured in west of Song Rai river between Nui Dat and Xuyên Mộc District.[143]
  • 3 August 1967, a C-7 Caribou transport plane was approaching the special forces camp at Đức Phổ when it flew into line of fire from a U.S. Army 155 mm howitzer. The tail section separated and the airplane fell down, killing the crew. A cease fire had been issued but failed to reach the gun crew in time. The Caribou was photographed just before it hit the ground.[144]
  • 19 November 1967, during the Battle of Dak To a U.S. Marine Corps A-4 Skyhawk aircraft flown by Lieutenant Colonel Richard Taber dropped two 250 lb (110 kg) bombs on the command post of the 2nd Battalion (Airborne) 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade while they were in heavy contact with a numerically superior People's Army of Vietnam force. At least 45 paratroopers were killed and another 45 wounded. Also killed was the Battalion Chaplain Major Charles J. Watters, who was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor.[145]
  • 16–17 June 1968, HMAS Hobart, USS Boston and USS Edson were attacked by US aircraft. At 03:09, Hobart's radar picked up an aircraft approaching with no IFF transponder active. At 03:14, the aircraft fired a single missile at the ship which killed one sailor, wounded two others and damaged the ship. Two minutes later, the aircraft made a second pass and fired two missiles which caused further damage, killed another sailor and wounded six others. The aircraft came around for a third attack run, but was scared off when Hobart's forward gun turret, under independent control, fired five rounds at it. At 03:30, USS Edson, in company with Hobart, reported coming under fire, and Hobart's captain ordered both destroyers and USS Theodore E. Chandler to take up anti-aircraft formation. At 05:15, the three destroyers linked up with the cruiser USS Boston (which had been hit by a missile from another aircraft) and the escorting destroyer USS Blandy, and continued anti-aircraft manoeuvring. Debris collected from Hobart and the other ships indicated that the missiles were of United States Air Force (USAF) origin. The attacks on Hobart and the other ships were the capstone of a series of firing incidents between 15 and 17 June, and an inquiry was held by the USN into the incidents, with three RAN personnel attending as technical advisors. The inquiry found that a few hours before the attack on Hobart, Swift boats PCF-12 and PCF-19, along with USCGC Point Dume, were attacked by what they identified at the time as hovering enemy aircraft, but were believed to be friendly planes; PCF-19 was sunk in the attack. F-4 Phantoms of the USAF Seventh Air Force, responding several hours after the attack on the Swift boats, were unable to distinguish between the radar signature of surface ships and airborne helicopters, and instead opened fire on Hobart, Boston, and Edson.
  • 11 May 1969, during the Battle of Hamburger Hill, Lieutenant Colonel Weldon Honeycutt directed helicopter gunships, from an Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA) battery, to support an infantry assault. In the heavy jungle, the helicopters mistook the command post of the 3/187th battalion for a Vietnamese unit and attacked, killing two and wounding thirty-five, including Honeycutt. This incident disrupted battalion command and control and forced 3/187th to withdraw into night defensive positions.
  • 1 May 1970, on military operations in Phước Tuy Province a burst of machine gun fire followed by a calls for the medic split the night, an Australian machine gunner opened fire on soldiers of the 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment without warning, killing two and wounded two other soldiers.[146]
  • 20 July 1970, patrol units of 'D' Company 8th Battalion, 1st Australian Task Force outside the wire at Nui Dat called in a New Zealand battery fire mission as part of a training exercise. However, there was confusion at the gun position about the fire corrections issued by the inexperienced Australian officer with the patrol. The result was two rounds fell upon the patrol, killing two and wounding several others.[147]
  • 24 July 1970, New Zealand artillery guns accidentally shelled an Australian platoon, 1 Australian Reinforcement Unit, (1 ARU), killing two and wounding another four soldiers.[148]
  • 10 May 1972, a VPAF MiG-21 was shot down in error by a North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile near Tuyen Quang, killing a pilot.[149]
  • 2 June 1972, a VPAF MiG-19 was shot down in error by a North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile near Kep Province, killing a pilot.[150]

1967 Six-Day War[edit]

  • On the fourth day of the Six-Day War (8 Jun 1967), at about 2 PM Sinai time (then, GMT+2), Israeli defense forces attacked USS Liberty in International waters about 14 miles off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula, near El Arish, killing 34 Americans and wounding (naval officers, seamen, two marines, and one civilian), wounded 171 crew members, and severely damaged the ship. At the time, the ship was in international waters. Though controversially disputed by the survivors of the attack, both countries officially consider it to be a case of mistaken identity.[151]

The Troubles[edit]

  • On 13 September 1969, British Lance Corporal Michael Spurway, of 24 Airportable HQ and Signal Squadron, was accidentally shot dead by a fellow British soldier while he was on the telephone to his wife, shortly after returning to his base at Gosford Castle after manning a rebroadcast station supporting 3 LI rear link communications.[152][153]
  • On 3 September 1972, two Royal Marines on patrol in Stratheden Street in New Lodge, Belfast, came into contact from separate directions and in the confusion, shot and killed a fellow Royal Marine, 18 year old Gunner Robert S. Cutting. At the time of Cutting's death, he had been on foot patrol in the New Lodge Road approaching Stratheden Street. A Royal Marine saw whom he thought was an enemy sniper and fired at him, injuring him. However, the Royal Marine shot him a second time as he attempted to crawl away, killing him instantly.[154][155] There was no investigation into his death until 40 years later, when the MoD found out that the soldier who shot him did not observe the correct procedure for engagement. No charges were filed against the soldier who shot him.[156]
  • On January 1, 1980, Lieutenant Simon Bates, of 2 PARA, was commanding an ambush at Tullydonnell, near Forkhill. A cardinal principle of ambush orders was to never leave the position. However, for some reason, Bates and his radio operator, Private Gerald Hardy, left the ambush and were mistakenly killed by fellow British paratroopers while returning to their positions.[157]

1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus[edit]

Rhodesian Bush War[edit]

First Lebanon War[edit]

During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the worst friendly fire incident in the history of the IDF took place. On 10 June 1982, the Israeli air force mistook a column of IDF Nahal Brigade forces for a Syrian commando unit. An IAF F-4 Phantom attacked the Battalion 931, advancing in open APCs in south-eastern Lebanon with cluster munitions. The unit suffered 24 soldiers killed and 108 wounded, with a further 30 soldiers shell shocked. It was the worst friendly-fire incident in the history of the IDF.[159][160][161]

1982 Falklands War[edit]

  • A Dassault Mirage III was shot down by Argentine Anti-Aircraft and small arms fire at Port Stanley while an A-4 Skyhawk was downed by a 35 mm antiaircraft battery near Goose Green. Both aircraft belonged to the Argentine Air Force.
  • Companies A and C of the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, British Army engaged each other in an hour-long firefight in the Falkland Islands involving heavy weapons and artillery strikes, resulting in five deaths and three injuries.
  • 2 June – A friendly fire incident took place between the SAS and the Special Boat Squadron (SBS). An SBS patrol had apparently strayed into the SAS patrol's designated area and were mistaken for Argentine forces. A brief firefight was initiated during which one of the SBS patrol, Sergeant Ian Hunt, was killed.[162]
  • 1982 British Army Gazelle friendly fire incident – Due to a lack of communication between the Army and the Navy, the destroyer HMS Cardiff shot down a British Gazelle helicopter over the Falkland Islands, killing four British soldiers. The MoD immediately covered up the incident, saying that the soldiers were killed by enemy fire. However, four years later, under intense pressure and scrutiny, the MoD finally admitted that they were killed by friendly fire.
  • 11 June - Just before the Battle of Two Sisters, British units of 45 Commando Royal Marines on reconnaissance patrol were mistaken for Argentine units in the dark and the British mortar group opened up on them, only to be met with a withering hail of fire from the 45 Commando in return. In the confusion, five British troops died, including the mortar troop sergeant, and two were wounded. Among the dead from 45 Commando were Sergeant Robert Leeming, Corporal Peter Fitton, Corporal Andy Uren, and Royal Marine Keith Phillips.[163]
  • 11 June – A British Royal Navy frigate, HMS Avenger (F185), fired a 4.5 inch explosive shell into a house while shelling Port Stanley, killing three British women and wounding several others. They remained the only British civilian casualties of the war.[164][165]

1991 Persian Gulf War[edit]

War in Afghanistan (2001–2016)[edit]

  • In the Tarnak Farm incident of 18 April 2002, four Canadian soldiers were killed and eight others injured when U.S. Air National Guard Major Harry Schmidt, dropped a laser-guided 500 lb (230 kg) bomb from his F-16 jet fighter on the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry regiment which was conducting a night firing exercise near Kandahar. Schmidt was charged with negligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, and dereliction of duty. He was found guilty of the latter charge. During testimony Schmidt blamed the incident on his use of "go pills" (authorized mild stimulants), combined with the 'fog of war'.[166] The Canadian dead received US medals for bravery, along with an apology.
  • Pat Tillman, a former professional American football player, was shot and killed by American fire on 22 April 2004. An Army Special Operations Command investigation was conducted by Brigadier General Jones and the U.S. Department of Defense concluded that Tillman's death was due to friendly fire aggravated by the intensity of the firefight. A more thorough investigation concluded that no hostile forces were involved in the firefight and that two allied groups fired on each other in confusion after a nearby improvised explosive device was detonated.
  • On 6 April 2006, a British convoy in Afghanistan wounded 13 Afghan police officers and killed seven, after calling in a US airstrike on what they thought was a Taliban attack.[167]
  • In Sangin Province, a RAF Harrier pilot allegedly mistakenly strafed British troops missing the enemy by 200 metres during a firefight with the Taliban on 20 August 2006.[clarification needed] This angered British Major James Loden of 3 PARA, who in a leaked email called the RAF, "Completely incompetent and utterly, utterly useless in protecting ground troops in Afghanistan". This allegation is despite the RAF Harrier GR7 not being fitted with guns.[clarification needed]
  • Canadian soldiers opened fire on a white pickup truck, about 25 kilometres west of Kandahar, killing an Afghan officer with 6 others injured on 26 August 2006.[168]
  • Operation Medusa (2006): One–two[vague] U.S. A-10 Thunderbolts mistakenly strafed NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, killing Canadian Private Mark Anthony Graham.
  • On 5 December 2006, an F/A-18C on a Close Air Support mission in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, mistakenly attacked a trench where British Royal Marines were dug-in during a 10-hour battle with Taliban fighters, killing one Royal Marine.[169]
  • Lance Corporal Matthew Ford, from Zulu Company of 45 Commando Royal Marines, died after receiving a gunshot wound in Afghanistan on 15 January 2007, which was later found to be due to friendly fire. The final inquest ruled he died from NATO rounds from a fellow Royal Marine's machine gun. The report added there was no "negligence" by the other Marine, who had made a "momentary error of judgment".[170][171]
  • Canadian troops mistakenly killed an Afghan National Police officer and a homeless beggar after their convoy was ambushed in Kandahar City.[172]
  • Of two helicopters called in to support operations by the British Grenadier Guards and Afghan National Army forces in Helmand, the British Westland WAH-64 Apache engaged enemy forces, while the accompanying American AH-64D Apache opened fire on the Grenadiers and Afghan troops.[citation needed]
  • 23 August 2007: A USAF F-15 called in to support British ground forces in Afghanistan dropped a bomb on those forces. Three privates of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, were killed and two others were severely injured. The coroner at the soldiers' inquest stated that the incident was due to "flawed application of procedures" rather than individual errors or "recklessness".[173]
  • On 26 September 2007, British soldiers in operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, fired Javelin anti-tank missiles at Danish soldiers from the Royal Life Guards, killing two.[174] It is also confirmed from Danish forces that the British fired a total of 6–8 Javelin missiles, over a 1+12 hour period and only after the attack was completed did they realize that the missiles were British, based upon the fragments found after the incident.[175]
  • On 12 January 2008, two Dutch soldiers and two allied Afghan soldiers were shot dead by fellow Dutch soldiers in Uruzgan, Afghanistan.[176]
  • In the night on 14 January 2008 in Helmand Province, British troops saw a bunch of Afghans "conducting suspicious activities". Visibility was too bad for rifle-fire and they were too far away to call in mortar strikes. The squad decided to use a Javelin anti-tank missile they were carrying. British soldiers fired their missile on the nearby roof but the victims were their own Afghan army sentries. 15 Afghan soldiers were killed.[177]
  • Between January 2008 and June 2009, Afghan military, police, and security personnel came under fire by British troops at least 10 times, resulting in seven deaths. The most serious incident occurred in the Lashkargah District of Helmand Province in October 2008, in which British troops opened fire on Afghan National Police officers that killed three and injured another.[178]
  • On 9 July 2008, nine British soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment were injured after being fired upon by a British Army Apache helicopter while on patrol in Afghanistan.[179]
  • A statement issued jointly by the American and the Afghan military commands said a contingent of Afghan police officers fired on United States forces on 10 December 2008 after the Americans had successfully overrun the hide-out, killing the suspected Taliban commander and detaining another man. The US forces after securing the hideout came under heavy small arms fire and explosive grenades from the Afghan Police forces. "Multiple attempts to deter the engagement were unsuccessful," and the US forces returned fire. Afghan police have stated that they came under fire first and that the initial firing on the US forces came from the building next to the police station. This has led the US forces to conclude that the Afghan police forces might have been compromised. Initial reports indicate that this was a tragic case of mistaken identity on both parts.[180]
  • Captain Tom Sawyer, aged 26, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, and Corporal Danny Winter, aged 28, Zulu Company 45 Commando Royal Marines, were killed by an explosion on 14 January 2009 from a Javelin missile fired by British troops acting on the orders of a Danish officer. Both men were taking part in a joint operation with a Danish Battle Group and the Afghan National Army in a location north east of Gereshk in central Helmand Province.[181][182]
  • On 9 September 2009, British Special Boat Service forces were sent to rescue New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell and his Afghan translator Sultan Munadi who were kidnapped by Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan near Kunduz four days earlier. During the raid, Farrell was rescued, but Munadi was shot and killed in the firefight between the Taliban and British forces. It is later found out that Munadi was running towards the helicopter when he was shot in the front by a British soldier, in addition to being shot in the back by the Taliban, after the British mistook him for the Taliban. Two Afghan civilians also died from the hail of bullets by British and Taliban forces.
  • A British Military Police officer was shot dead by a fellow British soldier while on patrol.[183] It was reported that no charges are to be brought against a British army sniper who killed a British Military Policeman because he was allowed to open fire if he believed that his life was in danger.[184]
  • In December 2009, British commanders called upon a U.S. airstrike which killed Lance Corporal Christopher Roney from 3rd Battalion The Rifles who was engaging along with his comrades with the Taliban. The incident happened when a firefight was going on between British soldiers of 3rd Battalion The Rifles and the insurgents in Sangin Province. Senior British officers were watching a drone's grainy images of the fight from Camp Bastion, about 30 miles from the battle at Patrol Base Almas. The officers mistook the soldiers' mud-walled compound for an enemy position and called down a U.S. Apache airstrike on the base. Roney was fatally shot in the head after a helicopter gunship opened fire on the base. He died later the next day after being taken to Camp Bastion. Eleven other British soldiers were wounded in the attack.[185]
  • German soldiers killed six Afghan soldiers in a friendly fire incident on their way to attack a group of Taliban. Afghan soldiers were traveling in support of other Afghan troops in the area.[citation needed]
  • Sapper Mark Antony Smith, age 26, of the 36 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, was killed by a smoke shell fired upon by British troops in Sangin Province, Afghanistan. The MoD is investigating his death and said a smoke shell, designed to provide cover for soldiers working on the ground, may have fallen short of its intended target.[186][187]
  • Friendly fire between ISAF and Pakistan on 26 November 2011. ISAF forces opened fire on Pakistan Army forces killing 24 Pakistani soldiers and causing a great diplomatic standoff between U.S. and Pakistan. ISAF forces argue they were there to hunt down militants at the AF-PAK border. Pakistan had stopped transit of goods through its territory to ISAF in Afghanistan because of the incident. After an official apology by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 3 July 2012 the NATO supply routes were restored.
  • Two New Zealand soldiers were wounded by friendly fire from a 25mm gun mounted on an armored New Zealand LAV during a 12-minute firefight with insurgents in Bamyan Province on 4 August 2012.[188]
  • A British female soldier and a Royal Marine man were mistakenly killed by another British unit on patrol after her unit opened fire on an Afghan policeman assuming he was a Taliban insurgent. The British unit who killed a female soldier and a Royal Marine assumed they were under attack after the firing happened.[189]
  • Five United States Special forces operatives, and an Afghan Army counterpart were killed by friendly fire in Southern Zabul Province on June 9, 2014. Whilst on patrol, and coming under heavy Taliban fire, an air-strike was called in and a B-1 Lancer bomber misdirected its payload killing the six military personnel amongst others.[190]

Iraq War (2003–2011)[edit]

Video of the 28 March 2003 friendly fire incident, showing errors of identification
  • In the Battle of Nasiriyah, an American force of Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs) and infantry under intense enemy fire were misidentified as an Iraqi armored column by two U.S. Air Force A-10s who carried out bombing and strafing runs on them. One Marine died as a result.
  • A U.S. Patriot missile shot down a British Panavia Tornado GR.4A of No. 13 Squadron RAF, killing the pilot and navigator. Investigations showed that the Tornado's identification friend or foe indicator had malfunctioned and hence it was not identified as a friendly aircraft.[191][192]
  • Sgt Steven Roberts, a tank commander of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, was killed when a fellow British soldier manning a tank-mounted machine gun mistakenly hit him while firing at a stone wielding Iraqi protester at a roadblock in Az Zubayr near Basra on 24 March 2003.[193] It was reported that no British soldiers were to be charged for his death.[194]
  • A British Challenger 2 tank came under fire from another British tank in a nighttime firefight. The turret was blown off and two of the crewmembers were killed.[195][196]
  • 190th Fighter Squadron/Blues and Royals friendly fire incident – 28 March 2003. A pair of American A-10s from the 190th attacked four British armoured reconnaissance vehicles of the Blues and Royals, killing L/CoH. Matty Hull and injuring five others.
  • British Royal Marine Christopher Maddison was killed when his river patrol boat was hit by missiles after being wrongly identified as an enemy vessel approaching a Royal Engineers checkpoint on the Al-Faw Peninsula, Iraq.[197]
  • U.S. Patriot missile batteries fired two missiles on a U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet 50 mi (80 km) from Karbala, Iraq.[198] One missile hit the aircraft of pilot Lieutenant Nathan Dennis White of VFA-195, Carrier Air Wing Five, killing him. This was the result of the missile design flaw in identifying hostile aircraft.[199]
  • American aircraft attacked a friendly Kurdish & U.S. Special Forces convoy, killing 15. BBC translator Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed was killed and BBC reporter Tom Giles and World Affairs Editor John Simpson were injured. The incident was filmed.[200]
  • Fusilier Kelan Turrington, of the 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was killed by machine-gun fire from a British tank.[201]
  • American soldier Mario Lozano killed an Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari and is suspected of wounding Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena in Baghdad. Sgrena was rescued from a kidnapping by Calipari, and it was claimed that the car they were escaping in failed to stop at an American checkpoint, whereupon U.S. soldiers opened fire. Video evidence shows the car was respecting speed limits and proceeding with its headlights on. The shooting commenced well before 50 meters, in contrast with what Lozano and other soldiers testified.[202]
  • During a raid on 16 July 2006 to apprehend a key terrorist leader and accomplice in a suburb of North Basra, Cpl John Cosby, of the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, was killed by a 5.56 mm round from a British-issued SA80. It was ruled to be a case of friendly fire by the coroner. It was reported that the British forces who shot him were unclear about the rules of engagement.[203][204]
  • An American airstrike killed eight Kurdish Iraqi soldiers. Kurdish officials advised U.S. helicopters hit the men who were guarding a branch of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Mosul. The U.S. military said the attack was launched after soldiers identified armed men in a bunker near a building reportedly used for bomb-making, and that American troops called for the men to put down their weapons in Arabic and Kurdish before launching the strike.[205]
  • Dave Sharrett, II was shot and killed in a firefight with insurgents near the village of Bichigan, north of Baghdad in January 2008, during Operation Hood Harvest. The incident has since been described as friendly fire.[206]
  • [207]SPC Donald Oaks, SGT Todd Robbins,[208] and SFC Randall Rehn[209] of D Battery, 1st Battalion, 39th Field Artillery Regiment (MLRS, M270 A1), 3rd Infantry Division Artillery [210](Previously C Battery 3-13 FA [211]), were killed when a US fighter jet mistook the rocket artillery from US MLRS as enemy targets on 3 April 2003 while 3rd ID DIVARTY conducted a counter fire battle with Iraqi positions along the Euphrates River.[211] The ordnance struck the vehicles of the soldiers killing SFC Rehn instantly, while SGT Robbins[212] and SPC Oaks[213] died shortly after from their wounds. 5 other soldiers were WIA from the event.[214][215]

Gaza War[edit]

  • On 1 June 2009 an Israeli tank fired on a building in Jabalia occupied by Golani Brigade troops after mistaking them for Hamas fighters, killing three soldiers and wounding 20.[216]
  • On 2 June 2009, an Israeli officer was killed when an Israeli tank fired at a building he was positioned in, causing a wall to collapse on him.[217]

2014 Israel-Gaza conflict[edit]

  • On 14 July 2014, an Israeli soldier, Staff Sergeant Eitan Barak, was killed during operational activity in the northern Gaza Strip, becoming the first Israeli fatality of the war. The Israeli military announced that he had probably been killed by errant Israeli tank fire.[218]

Other incidents[edit]

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